Under the authority of the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is the principal co-ordinating body for the economic and social activities carried out by the UN and the various funds, programs, organizations and specialized agencies that make up what is called the United Nations system or extended family. It has 54 member states, each elected for a three-year term.
The activities overseen by ECOSOC are aimed at promoting economic growth and progress in the developing world, respect for human rights, and international co-operation in such areas as housing, health, environmental protection and crime prevention.
To successfully carry out its mandate, the Council has several commissions and committees with specific responsibilities.
This structure includes nine Functional commissions charged with studying issues and making recommendations in their fields of expertise.
The Council also has oversight of the Regional economic commissions charged with promoting economic development in each region, and strengthening economic relations among the various countries there and between these countries and the rest of the world.
The Council also has three standing committees: (1) the Committee on Negotiations with Intergovernmental Agencies; (2) the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations; and (3) the Committee for Programme and Coordination.
Last, the Council supervises the work of a great many expert bodies on questions such as the environment, natural resources, and economic, cultural and social rights.
It also oversees the governing boards of several UN organs, including the United Nations Children's Fund, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Food Programme and the United Nations Population Fund, to name but a few.